Critter Encounters at Bowditch Point

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06112011610-Bowditch-wildlife-signageThis post will pick up where Wilderness At Bowditch Point left off. We’re on a field trip with my Florida Master Naturalist class (Coastal Systems Module), and we’ve got a really great guide named Roger Clark, from Lee County, Florida’s Conservation 20/20 program.

After telling us about a few of the plants and trees that we found growing on the perimeter of the parking lot, Roger led us up the man-made hill at the very northern tip of Estero Island aka Fort Myers Beach. Once on top of the hill, we saw a prominent “KEEP OUT” sign posted on a split-rail fence. Almost immediately, it became apparent that we were in for a critter encounter!


If you are looking for a gopher tortoise burrow, here’s how to spot one – just look around for a heap of sand that looks like an ant hill on steroids. The ones I’ve seen come complete with a hole that’s partially obscured by brush. I don’t know if that’s intentional, or just one giant co-inky-dink.


A female gopher tortoise contemplates jumping the fence.


Whut-oh! Stand back, she’s on the move!


She’s getting pretty close – Immma-skeered! 😯


Oh. Em. Gee! She passed very close to me. I got up and moved to the other side of a tree and turned on the video camera …

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This tortoise had a single-minded mission to leave her burrow and head into a scrub area, and no wildlife geek with a camera in her hand was going to stop her! I can’t believe I moved out of her path, and then she headed right for me anyway. You can hear one of my classmates coaching me (translation: playing with my head a bit) about how vicious these animals can be 😀 You can also hear him say “no” when I ask if I should move. In the end, I was running out of options to keep the lens on her and had to stand up to avoid becoming a pretzel. You can also hear scrub jays screaming in the background about the time I stand up.

After the official part of the field trip was over, I doubled back over the route we’d taken so I could get some better shots of the plants that had been discussed. As I came up the hill, I spied this little tableau:


At first, I thought this osprey had an extra tail, or maybe one of her feathers was coming loose.


Now we see that it’s definitely a tail, but it’s not hers. It’s lunch! I think this is what they call “mantling” behavior, where they hunch over their food so that nothing flying overhead will see it and try to compete for it.


She’s really got an impressive profile, with a beak made for tearing. “I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille.” 😉

There will be one more installment of this Florida Master Naturalist field trip adventure in the very near future – so stay tuned! :)

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